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In the first quarter of 2023, there was a 24% increase in GP visits related to memory and concentration problems among adults (age 25 years and older) compared to the same period in 2020. This is evidenced by the latest quarterly research update from the GOR Network. The increase in memory and concentration problems of adults seems to be a longer-term effect of the coronavirus measures as well as SARS-CoV-2 infections.

Older people (75+) are most likely to visit their GP with the symptoms. The youngest two age groups among adults (25-44 and 45-64 years) are relatively unlikely to visit their GP for these symptoms. The number of GP visits for memory and concentration problems increased in all age groups among adults (aged 25 years and up), but the biggest increase was seen in the age groups from 45 to 74 years (+40%). A 31% increase was seen among adults aged 24-44, and an 18% increase among adults over 75. No increase was observed among young people (under 25 years old).

Possible explanations

The source of this increase in memory and concentration problems is unclear. A possible explanation could be that COVID-19 measures caused accelerated cognitive decline among people who were starting to have problems with memory and concentration (66 years on average). Researchers at the Alzheimer's Centre at Amsterdam UMC and others also saw a trend in the primary care data that they had already expected to occur at the beginning of the Covid-19 period: an increasing group of people who were suffering from mild memory and concentration problems. A supplementary explanation could be that some of these people have long-term symptoms after COVID-19. Various studies have shown that memory and concentration problems are common in post-COVID symptoms. Other infectious diseases, such as flu, can also cause these symptoms. However, recent studies have shown that long-term memory and concentration problems are much more common after COVID-19 than after flu. In addition, these symptoms are more common in older age groups. The figures provided by GPs are consistent with this expectation.

About the study

These results are from the seventh quarterly survey among adults in the Netherlands and are based on figures from the Nivel Primary Care Database. This quarterly study is part of Health Research for COVID-19, a GOR Network research programme. The health impacts of the COVID-19 crisis are being assessed in this joint initiative by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), the local Municipal Public Health Services (GGDs), GGD GHOR Nederland (the national umbrella organisation of the GGDs and Regional Medical Assistance Organisations), the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (Nivel), and ARQ National Psychotrauma Centre. This programme was commissioned by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) and the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw).